The National Parks Service and the Department of the Interior made headlines all over the country last week, largely in editorial columns, due to a leaked memo that proposes drastic re-writes of the fundamental purpose behind the National Parks Service. The author of the memo, Paul Hoffman, a deputy assistant secretary at The Department of the Interior, was widely criticized for his proposals to change the definition of illegal uses of our National Parks.
One of the key changes was quite simple, but quite damaging to conservation and non-motorized recreation efforts. The memo proposed that illegal uses of national parks should be changed from “damaging park resources,” to “irreversibly damaging park resources.” It also proposed greater access for motorized vehicles and regulations that make it more difficult for officials to call for the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce haze and air pollution in parks.
The document was leaked to the New York Times by park officials who were “dismayed” by these proposed changes and wanted to take action against them. Reportedly, all other park officials who reviewed the document rejected the changes entirely. The Department of the Interior has stated that Mr. Hoffman was playing “Devils Advocate” with the memo, although several undisclosed changes to the National Park Services governing laws are currently under way.
In response, OIA has drafted a letter to Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, stating the industrys objection to changes which could “harm the very landscapes and natural icons that define America.” The letter was signed by over 70 executives in the outdoor industry. Secretary Norton has a well-documented history of promoting motorized vehicle use, with several guest editorials to her name touting the advantages of allowing snowmobile use on NPS lands.